“Islamophobia can be Countered with Positive Message of Islam”

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Interview with Syed Hamid Mohsin

By A Staff Writer

Salaam Centre was set up by Syed Hamid Mohsin in 2008 in Bangalore. It aimed at taking the message of Islam in plain words to non-Muslims and remove their misgivings. It launched the “Quran for All” campaign soon after it was set up. The campaign was designed in a manner that it could trigger curiosity to read the Holy Quran among non-Muslims. The Centre placed giant sized billboards on 30 important thoroughfares of Bangalore inviting the passersby to read the Quran. The response was tremendous. Hundreds of them approached the Centre and received gift packs carrying copies of the translations of the Quran and other books on Islam, Prophet Muhammad etc. The Centre adopted the strategy of distributing the Quran translations in various languages at various courts, police headquarters, gifting them to academics, libraries and universities. It also set up stalls at the book fairs and thus took the Divine message to lakhs of people.
Interactions with thousands of non-Muslim intellectuals, academics, litterateurs and common individuals enabled Mr. Mohsin to read their minds and this brought him a fund of experience. He perceived the need to compile books with specific needs of this audience. He devoted two long years to compile and write three books in English i.e., Follow Me (a book on the life of the Holy Prophet), Islam For You (a general introduction to Islamic beliefs and practices) and Islam: Facts vs. Fiction (a book on common misgivings about Islam) and got them translated into Urdu, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Marathi. These books have reached lakhs of hands and have been instrumental in creating awareness about the doctrine and practices of Islam. The electronic versions of these books have been put on Internet too. Hamid Mohsin shares his experiences in an interview. Excerpts:
Q: You have compiled the book Islam: Facts vs. Fiction. There have been books on these topics by other authors too. How do you deal with the subject?
A: Yes, there have been booklets by other authors on the issue. They were penned for the specific audience. Islam: Facts vs. fiction compiled by me is a 250-page book which takes an objective approach to explain the Muslim/Islamic point of view. It is neither apologetic nor defensive. All facts have been supported by relevant data, statistics and references. It has extracted a lot of data from history, sociology, law and politics. It is not written in a manner that a Muslim is trying to defend himself against certain allegations. It therefore responds to the queries from modern minds.
Q: Did you have any specific objectives behind writing this book?
A: Three factors prompted me to take up the work. First there was a lot of biased history around which was reinforcing myths about Muslims. Second, there was general lack of awareness about Islam, Muslims, the sharia, fatwa etc. Third and the most important was the Islamophobia which is currently working as an industry in the West. Islamophobia scares people away from Islam and creates dreadful stereotypes. It leads to alienation of Muslims from others. All this create a lot of social disharmony and inject poison in the society.
Q: Would you throw some light on Islamophobia?
A: Weapon manufacturing lobbies in the West are afraid of peace and are bent upon stoking war between nations which is the only guarantee for sale of their arms and profiteering through it. But wars cannot be waged all of a sudden. They need preparation of minds. So a lot of propaganda and myths against certain nations, communities or faiths have to be generated to psychologically prepare the people. Wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon necessitated propagation of the theory of terrorism which in turn would be used as a justification for launching assault against these hapless nations. So good deal of research went into arraigning Muslims and Islam for terror incidents. Terms like Jihad, Fatwa, Shia and Sunni, Wahabi and Salafi and Martyrdom etc were misinterpreted to malign Islam’s image. An atmosphere was created whereby Islam evoked images of bearded gunmen with bloodshot eyes roaming around. Sufficient propaganda prepared the ground for the so called American war on terror which has only led to more violence and cycle of revenge. When hate and contempt take possession of hearts and minds, they are ready to accept violent reprisals against the objects of hate.
The West has on one hand imposed or tolerated despots, dictators and tyrant sultans over the Muslim world and has colluded with them to wage wars against their local adversaries. It is the West which has created Israel in the heart of the Middle East whose illegal occupation of Arab lands, raids into Palestinian areas, usurpation of water resources and creation of the Apartheid wall has been constantly fuelling the Arab rage. The West uses all these to trigger war between the Middle Eastern states. The book etches to relief all these factors that have been exploited by the West to create the bogey of terrorism. The book goes into unearthing these linkages between terrorism and injustice. Ideological issues should be tackled intellectually, not by violence.
Q: What is the most important issue discussed in the book?
A: All the contents of the book are important. But it makes certain significant point. One among them is that the world is in the throes of the Fourth World War. The Third World War was fought between the Soviet Union and the United States in Afghanistan. Following this, the Americans were looking for energy sources. They set their sight upon the oil wells of the Middle East. So they created alibis to trigger a new war. Having liquidated the Soviets, the second world, they have identified the ‘Green Enemy” i.e., Islam and Muslims and become targeting them. Soviets were not easy to target because they had white skins. Muslims are easily identifiable as enemies due to their brown skins, a different mode of dressing, dietary habits and cultural mores. This war is being fought more on the TV screens, newspaper pages and over the social media. Even the India media finds a convergence of view with the Western media and has become an ally on the side of the West. It is equally infected with the germs of hate against Islam.
Q: Will this book be beneficial for Muslims too?
A: It carries a fund of information for the youth of the modern times in order to disabuse their minds of the Western and anti-Islam propaganda. Today’s Muslim youth is cerebrally empty and does not read anything except learning some rituals and practices. They are unaware of their culture, history, religion, its mores, ethos, norms and literature. They have virtually nothing to respond to the allegations by the West. The book will equip them with enormous amount of facts and realities.
Q: What is your message to general Muslims in the light of your dawah experience?
A: There is a vast section of Indian society which wants to be friends with us. The communal elements are in microscopic minority and are not in a position to overwhelm the entire society. The larger Indian society would like to live in peace and harmony. We have committed excesses against them by not having approached them with the positive message of Islam. And more sadly, we are unaware of what we have done to them and there is only heightened awareness of what others are doing to us. If a single Muslim individual reaches at least three non-Muslims with the message of the Quran and the Holy Prophet, it can have a salutary impact on the entire society.